Live Well: Immunity

Seasonal Defense

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Published: October 5th, 2010
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While there’s no cure for the common cold, we do know of some simple things that can help give our immune systems an extra boost of protection:

Eat a balanced diet.  It’s tough to do with the holiday feasts and parties. But a balanced diet can give your immune system a better chance to fight off the germs that cause illnesses.  If you’re concerned that you are not getting your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, consider taking a multivitamin and other supplements for nutritional insurance.

Keep you digestion in check.  If our digestive system goes kaput, our immunity can easily suffer.  Everyone can benefit from probiotics, which help keep your digestive system healthy and support natural resistance.

Avoid stress.  During the holidays, we tend to worry more about money and time spent with family, not to mention work or school.  If we don’t manage our stress, it could lead to a weakened immune system.  Just identifying where your stress is coming from can help you feel more in control.  From there, you can work on ways to help manage it.

Get more sleep.  If we don’t get enough, our bodies aren’t prepared to handle the stress we put on ourselves.  Try to get 7-9 hours every night.

Wash your hands – a lot!  In the cold fall and winter months, we are in closer proximity with people, as we spend more time indoors and more time around lots of people, i.e. holiday parties, family get-togethers.  It’s worth the extra effort to keep your hands as clean as possible.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends regularly scrubbing your hands with warm, soapy water for about 15 seconds.

Exercise regularly.  The weather is cold, the sun doesn’t shine as much and we are just too busy to find time to work out.  It’s well worth it to make the extra effort to do so, however.  A study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health showed that short-duration, low-intensity exercise can significantly increase the number and activity of disease-fighting immune system cells.

Get your dose of sunshine.  In much of the country, the sun isn’t shining as much as it was a couple months ago, so vitamin D can be an issue since it is generated in the body when it comes into contact with UV rays.  Why is vitamin D important?  Research shows that adequate intake of vitamin D can help boost your immune health.  Supplementation is an ideal way to get your daily dose.  Talk to your doctor about how much you need every day.

Take extra care when traveling.  When we travel, we can easily break many of the tips listed above: we eat poorly, we’re stressed, we don’t get enough sleep and many of us don’t exercise.  Traveling can wreak havoc on our immune systems!  Take extra care to pay attention to immunity when you’re far from home.

Nutrition Tips and Immunity

1. Load up on antioxidants, which fight free radicals that cause cell damage in your body.  Two great examples of antioxidants that support your immune system are vitamin C and vitamin E.

2. Sip on some green tea every day.  Green tea contains beneficial compounds called polyphenols that function as an antioxidant.  Antioxidants help protect your cells and tissue from oxidative stress which may activate your immune system.

3. Enahnce immunity with herbs like elderberry and echinacea that support your immune system and provide seasonal antioxidant defense.  Zinc is an essential mineral that regulates the production of immune cells and supports natural resistance

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